The Sociology of Globalization: History, Causes and Consequences

Essay 2012 10 Pages

Sociology - Political Sociology, Majorities, Minorities



We eat Spanish tomatoes, drink French wine, drive Japanese cars and wear clothes produced in Bangladesh. Europeans celebrate Halloween, the whole world is listening to American Pop Music and our neighbours come from all over the world. This shows that economy and society have reached a global level. Due to this, globalization has become a key issue in the social analysis of economy over the past years. In this work, I will analyse the sociological understandings of globalization, its causes and its consequences. Starting from a definition of globalization and the connection of globalization and capitalism, I will then point out the origins of globalization and the subjects in sociology of globalization. I will analyse the causes and consequences of globalization from a sociological point of view. I come to the conclusion that globalization led to an increase of welfare all over the world but there are also new problems which need to be solved.

What is Globalization?

Even though most people see globalization in an economic context, one has to remark that globalization is multi-dimensional. It describes an internationality in the economy, politics, culture, society, military, ideology and technology.

Economic globalization refers to how exchanges of goods, information, labour, money and images have come to an international scale (Tonkiss: x).

The problem is that the word "Globalization" has become very popular in a short period of time. No one knows what globalization is, but everyone agrees that globalization exists (Bartelson: 180).

Spoken in simple terms, globalization refers to the idea that economic relations and activities operate on an increasinglytransnational scale (Tonkiss: 4).

Bartelson distinguishes three different senses of globalization: Globalization as Transference, globalization as transformation and globalization as transcendence.

Globalization as transference refers to the exchange or transference of goods between pre-existing political, economic or cultural units (Bartelson: 184). These transfers between units influence the system as a whole.

The second concept, globalization as transformation, supposes that there is a change in the system which then influences the units. This is a reverse picture of the first concept (Bartelson: 187). Still, the second concept presupposes the first one because a system can't exist without units while units make sense without a system, too.

Globalization as transcendence, the last concept, combines the others in way. In this concept, globalization "implies the transcendence of those distinctions that together condition unit, system and dimension identity" (Bartelson: 189).

The analysis above shows that sociologist don't agree on one definition of globalization. Because of this, the lexicology of the word "Globalization" is an important topic of interest for sociologists.

History of Globalization

The history of globalization is still up for discussion nowadays. Some locate the origins in the modern epoch from 1970 to present; others describe globalization as a long historical process starting around 1450. Even though the word "Globalization" became popular in the 1990s, it has existed for a longer time (Wallerstein: 250).

Wallerstein analyses two periods of globalization: the first one starting in 1450 and the second in 1945 (Wallerstein: 250).

The period starting in 1450 is built on the basis of a historical approach. Travelling by sea, which made international trade possible, is of utmost importance for this period. The history of globalization is strongly connected to the history of capitalism. The market as a key element of both capitalism and exchange made trading possible. Revenues were re-invested and businesses grew bigger and bigger over time. At the latest, the Industrial Revolution of the 19th century globalized the world. Many people started working in the industrial sector. The division of labor as well as technological inventions made mass production possible.

Wallerstein divides the period starting in 1945 in two sub-periods: An A-phase characterized by high rates of economic growth from 1945 to 1967-73 and a B- phase from 1967-73 until today marked by a "downward swing of the economy" (Wallerstein: 250).

The A-phase, starting after World War II, has become popular as the "economic miracle" in western industrial countries. A rapid increase in living standarts lead to "wealth for all", a slogan by Ludwig Erhard, the German Minister of Economics and later Chancellor. Trade rates among the countries underwent a drastic growth. From less than a billion Euros in 1950, Exports and Imports in Germany increased to around 200 billion Euros each in 1980 (Statistical Office Germany). While there was no such thing as a "world economy" in 1950, the world trade connected the world two decades later. Judging from the economic definition of globalization, the A­phase can't be seen as a phase of globalization. But the A-phase is an important part of the path to a globalized world.

The B-phase also shows catching-up-processes Asian conuntries, especially those of the "Four Asian Tigers" Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan. Starting 1970, these countries became the new "economic miracle". They industrialized rapidly and developed into high-income countries. They produced simple goods like clothes at a much lower prize. Due to this, production shifted from Europe to Asia. In the A-phase, Western industrialized countries traded particularly with each other. Now, for the first time, there was trade all over the world.

In the later part of the B-phase, starting in the 1980s, other countries like China and India also started playing a role on the global market.

The last important step to globalization was the end of the Soviet Union after 1990. In this period former communistic countries became part of the world market as well.

The analysis has shown that globalization is not a single event, but an ever- developing, dynamic process.



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University of Vienna
sociology globalization economic sociology economy history causes consequences spirit wallerstein bartelson tonkiss unequality european union eu stiglitz bairoch cohesion justice global economy globalizations



Title: The Sociology of Globalization: History, Causes and Consequences